Religion that leads us away from Christ (Colossians 2:8-12)

Here are the notes I put together for the sermon I preached on Saturday night. This was mostly used as a guide for me, and I didn’t read it–except for brief moments when my mind blanked. I’m adding the text of verses here where I did read those.

What have we covered so far?
3 basic sections so far: 1) Colossians 1:1-1:8 Intro 2) 1:9-23 The Gospel! 3) 1:24-2:5 Paul’s contributions

2:6-7 Our section begins, we touched on this a little bit last week. So then… (having said all that, now we’re getting to the meat).

6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

We are to continue to live our lives in him. This is holiness. But it’s not just about performing or having the right opinions or doing certain actions at just the right time. It’s a lot more. We are to live our lives in him. To live is Christ, Paul says in Phil 1:21. We are to be rooted in him. We are to be built up in him. We are to be strengthened in our faith, as we were taught, orienting all our life in Jesus.

All well and good. But we get distracted. Paul is writing to make sure we don’t.
See to it… Read v. 8

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Hollow and deceptive philosophy. Note he doesn’t just say philosophy as though all thinking is bad. He’s not being anti-intellectual. Though a lot of people over the centuries have assumed this. Even recently (history of Fundamentalism) It’s a particular kind of philosophy. Hollow and deceptive. What’s a hollow philosophy? What’s a deceptive philosophy? Tertullian quote: “What has Athens have to do with Jerusalem.”

It’s not that we are taken captive by force. We’re to see that we’re not taken captive. We allow ourselves to be taken captive, so Paul is trying to ward off this tendency. He’s giving counsel to spiritual battles here and he’s showing the techniques that undermine us. Here, he’s not pointing to moral issues or obvious failures. He’s talking about what is a more subtle temptation. We can be taken captive by religion, by traditions, by philosophies. A problem in Colossae was not nominality, but a form of over-religiosity.
Human tradition and elemental spiritual forces of the world. What are these are in the text?
Galatians 4:1-3 has related comments:

What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.

What are examples now?

So, why would we be tempted to be taken captive? It’s not like we wake up one morning and think we’d like to try to make our lives more complicated. What’s the urge there? Most sins come out of trying to alleviate some pressure? What’s the drive?

a) To try to better explain something that’s complex or confusing (Lord’s supper and Golden calf). To just do… something.
b) To provide order (church order, liturgy, this stuff then gets solidified) Pharisees, Ch. Hist
c) To know more because we want more power, or knowledge. The sin of Adam and Eve!

2 Timothy 3:1-5 gives us some examples

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

We are tempted by power, and knowledge, and other things. But it distracts! Don’t let anything distract you from Christ! Why? Verse 9.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form

Fullness. We go back to 1:15.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…

The fullness of God is in Christ. If we want to know God, we seek Christ. If we want to see God, we look to Christ. Everything that is God, is found in Jesus. Which means what? What does it mean that the fullness of God is in Christ?

We don’t need all kinds of other commentaries or help or practices or anything. Jesus is God. In Jesus we have all we need to see God. What’s more is that this fullness isn’t a vague, ethereal, mystical spirituality. This fullness, this total picture of God, is in Jesus, who came in bodily form. The old Adam brought sin into flesh, and we share this flesh and we share this sin. We suffer from it, we are beaten and battered by it. We get hit by our own sins and we get hit, crushed, by the sins of others. But, God did not give up on his creation.

So that’s not all of it. We don’t just look at Jesus and see God from a distance. We aren’t stuck musing in philosophical ways about all the details about what it means that Jesus is God. There’s a new Adam—Jesus. He came in bodily form, and as a man showed all of us what it means to be truly human, in wholeness and fullness. He does not just show us.

v.10

In Christ you have been brought to fullness.

Let’s stop there, because this is astounding. You, me, don’t just look at Jesus as a philosophical concept or a religious ideal. There’s something that he did that changes everything. We have been brought into fullness. What does this mean?

Galatians 4:4-9:

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

we could go on in Galatians because so much of that book is being summarized right here in these verses.

Continue in v. 10.

He is the head of every power and authority.

So, if he’s the head of not just some powers and authorities but every power and authority, who can say “wait, there’s more. There’s other things that need to be done. There’s all this extra stuff you have to learn.” In Christ is the fullness of God. So if anyone tells you, if anyone tries to be a power or authority, whether it’s leaders of traditions or spiritual or elemental forces, you do not need their permission. You have been given fullness by Christ, who is the fullness. The source has invited you to the source, no middleman is needed. No one has the authority or power to put obstacles in the way of you going directly to the source.

v.11

In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,[g] not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,

What is Circumcision. It’s about identity. Christ gives us a new identity in him. When we were alienated, we tried to form our identity in other ways. Job, sin, money, knowledge, power. Only we can’t. Nothing else can give us identity. God is the only source of fullness and being. And only as we are participating with him, as part of his people, do we have an identity that is full and whole. Paul is making a big deal about all of this because it’s not just having extra bits of opinions. We get caught up in things that take the place of Christ, things that we then try to make our identity. In trying to do…whatever, we make our identity into these things.. whatever they are.

This is not losing our identity, becoming part of shapeless mass where we all become mindless robots. It’s about becoming who we truly were made to be. In Christ, we become fully who we are. We tried to pursue an identity of our own making when we were apart from Christ, but it is never enough. There’s no fullness or wholeness or peace, not ultimately.

v. 12

having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

When we are baptized, when we take this step of aligning with Christ, we are doing more than making philosophical declaration of our religious opinions.

Our old self, with our egos, and fears, and attempts to define ourselves through actions or knowledge or whatever is put aside. We die to that self. Our old way of being, our old, ultimately futile attempts to define ourselves are put aside. But we don’t become nothing. We’re not just forgiven. We’re raised again. We are raised with Christ, who is the fullness of God, and we are invited by Christ to partake of this fullness.

So don’t be distracted. Paul is warning us that there’s a tendency, a temptation to be caught up again in all those old attempts to define ourselves. We’re not slaves to those things anymore. Christ has risen! We have risen with him and are offered a chance to participate in his fullness, taking up a new identity, our true identity that reflects who God has made us to be.

This is not something we wait for, this is an experience we participate in now. We have our identity in Christ. Don’t let anyone distract you, and don’t distract yourself. You’re no longer a slave. You’re free. Don’t let yourself be taken captive and lose the hope, the freedom, the power, the true fullness and wholeness that is only found in Christ. Keep your eyes on Christ, who has given us the Holy Spirit to continue to form us and teach us and lead us into ever more experience of this fullness—an experience that does not end but continues throughout eternity, which is how full Christ is.

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